Four years ago, a vocal anti vaccine activist and a biologist by training challenged not only established medical science, but common sense. The man in question, Stefan Lanka, offered $100,000 to anyone who could prove the measles virus exists. Yes, the virus that used to infect millions of children and young adults hilariously doesn’t exist in Lanka’s view. David Barden, a German doctor, took it upon himself to battle the windmills. He mailed Lanka the most up-to-date and comprehensive research on measles. Unsurprisingly, Lanka dismissed them, but the German court thought otherwise. To them, the existence of measles is obvious and ordered the man to pay up the $106,000 he had promised.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

Mr. Lanka didn’t take the verdict lightly and said he would appeal. As he left the courthouse, Lanka said:

“It is a psychosomatic illness,” he told regional paper Suedkurier. “People become ill after traumatic separations.”

Western medicine first discovered that measles is caused by an infectious agent in the blood of patients in 1757. In the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. Many of you most likely had measles (remember?), but you might not be aware that it can easily lead to complications that can be fatal. It is estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year. Also each year an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.

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Widespread vaccination almost obliterated the disease. Most recently, a wave of vaccine skepticism has gain traction, most notably in the US and Germany. The concern lies in the false belief that vaccines cause autism. This was long-ago proven wrong and actually exposed as an elaborate fraud paid for by a group that wanted to sue vaccine manufacturers. Still, thousands of parents are refusing to vaccinate their children now. Moreover the anti-vaccine families tend to cluster inside communities which greatly increases the chance of infection. Last year, when a record number of California parents claimed personal belief exemptions, health officials reported the most measles cases seen here since 1995 and the most whooping cough cases since 1947.

Lanka not only thinks vaccines cause harm; he’s actually dismissing viruses like measles, and even HIV, are real!

“Because we know that the ‘measles virus’ doesn’t exist, and according to biology and medical science can’t exist, and because we know the real cause of measles, we want the reward to get people to enlighten themselves, for the enlightened to help the less enlightened and for the enlightened to influence those in power,” wrote in his challenge. You can find it in German form here.

Being an influential person, Lanka’s ignorance was disseminated. Right now, Berlin is currently facing its worst measles outbreak in decades. Some 782 cases were reported since last October, and in February an 18-month-old baby died because the parents wouldn’t accept the vaccine. The German government is currently considering making vaccines mandatory; something which I personally object to. It’s a serious debate, since it’s quite true and proven that refusing vaccines is not only poor for your health, but for public health as well. Then again, people should have the last word when it comes to needles and who knows what poking their body. Nevertheless, Lanka’s case might force others to measure their words more wisely. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but that doesn’t mean we should listen to it or that it’s true, for that matter.